The Energy Information Administration estimates that over 40 percent of home energy costs come from cooling and heating our homes. As a result, reducing the amount of energy we use for heating and cooling can significantly lower our overall energy bills.
Programmable thermostats may seem like a great way to do this. These thermostats are often advertised as energy-saving devices that will save you a great deal of money. However, studies have found that programmable thermostats frequently fail to live up to their supposed energy saving potential. The problem, it turns out, is that many people don’t use their potentially efficient thermostats in a very efficient way.
The Human Element
One key to lower heating and cooling costs is to turn down your thermostat for at least eight hours every day or night. Programmable thermostats make this easy, since you can preset temperatures for different times of day. In the summer you can set your air conditioner to turn off while you’re at work, and during the winter you can have your thermostat switch off while you’re sleeping.
However, many people set their programmable thermostats to run the air conditioner during the day and the heater at night. This may ensure maximum comfort but it uses an enormous amount of energy and causes energy bills to skyrocket.
Moderate indoor temperatures are also key to lowering energy use. Indoor temperatures of 68 degrees in the winter and 78 degrees in the summer are considered ideal for energy efficiency. However, one study found that people with programmable thermostats used less cooling energy while they were away but more when they were home because they set their thermostats lower.
Choose a Thermostat That Works for You
Programmable thermostats are likely to benefit some people, while others may be able to save more money on a consistent basis with a manual thermostat. If you prefer to let the thermostat do the work, and often forget to turn your system up or down at appropriate intervals, then a programmable thermostat is a reliable way to ensure that your system has enough down time.
However, if you prefer to have hands-on control of the temperature in your home, a manual thermostat may actually be the more efficient option. Small differences, such as turning your system on when you actually get up in the morning instead of one hour before, can add up to moderate savings over time.
In the end, human beings are the most important variables in the quest to reduce energy use and save money. If you are determined to lower your energy use, you can do so with any kind of thermostat. Make sure to turn your system off for at least eight hours every day and choose moderate temperature settings, and you will see the difference in your energy bills.
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